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Source: National Institute for Animal Agriculture news release

"I've been impressed every year with the NIAA Annual Conference themes and how they are presented," says Paul Rodgers, Deputy Director of Policy at the American Sheep Industry Association. "The General Sessions give a broad prospective of the year's theme, and the special Sessions set aside for individual species really let you dig into the topic and its impact on your own area of the industry."

NIAA member Rodgers serves as a co-chair, along with Ron Miller, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, for the NIAA Small Ruminant Committee and its session at this year's NIAA Annual Conference to be held in April in Kansas City, Mo.

Each year, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture chooses a theme for its Annual Conference from the most important and trending topics impacting species across the animal agriculture industry. The 2016 theme "From Farm to Table - Food System Biosecurity for Animal Agriculture" will focus on identifying risks, challenges and solutions of animal disease epidemics at a time when both the swine and poultry industries are still recovering from much-publicized and economically damaging disease outbreaks.

Rodgers says the Small Ruminant Session speakers will offer a different perspective on how biosecurity will impact Small Ruminants and animal agriculture as a whole. "We don't necessarily share all the same diseases as swine and poultry, but we can all benefit from what they have been learning about transportation and biosecurity."

Dr. Glynn Tonsor, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University, will be addressing the economic risk of animal disease spread and the investment into biosecurity. Tonsor will approach the subject from the regulatory side of food safety and animal health, as well as the practices, choices and incentives which drive decision making on biosecurity.

"Integrity of Risk Assessment Science Underlying USDA Policy" is the title of Dr. Mark Thurmond's presentation to the Small Ruminant Session. Thurmond is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, at University of California, Davis. He will look at the difference between qualitative and quantitative risk assessment in risk modeling, and speak to the process of putting a numerical values on risk.

Dr. Linda Detweiler, Clinical Professor, Department of Pathobiology & Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, at Mississippi State University, will present on the subject of "Emergency Response Preparedness: Considerations for the Small Ruminant Industry." She will focus on diseases more specific to the Small Ruminant industry.

Biosecurity, says Rodgers, is relevant to all of animal agriculture. It goes hand in hand with animal care, food security and the economic components of loss. In addition, Rodgers says biosecurity is very important to the Small Ruminant industry both at home and as it relates to trade. The Small Ruminant industry in the US may not be as large as in some other countries, but it is still a very important one.

Sheep and goats are a major source of red meat and natural fibers around the world. "On both sides, import and export," says Rodgers, "meeting safety regulations and having secure processes in place can impact whether or not animals are considered valuable and influence the marketplace."

The NIAA Annual Conference will be held April 4-6, 2016 at the Downtown Marriott in Kansas City, Mo. and will provide speakers and presentations for twelve separate agendas for Species Committees and Issues Council meetings within the Conference along with the General Sessions, pre-Conference tour, and an additional special BVD Forum following the Conference on April 7th. For registration information go to NIAA's website,

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